April 25, 2008
The Sound Academy (formerly The Docks). Toronto, Ontario
There was a weird vibe surrounding The Sound Academy when I arrived for the co-headliner Protest The Hero/Chiodos show. I wasn't in a bad mood so I don't think it was transference on my part. Au contrair, I've been excited about this tour, dubbed "Beer The Musical", since I heard about it well over a month ago. Also when I mentioned my felling to a few others they pretty much agreed and were glad it wasn't just them. After some serious consideration (lord knows I must have spent 10 minutes thinking about it) I think it may just be growing pains. What was once The Docks is now the Sound Academy, and seems poised to become the go-to venue in Toronto for not-quit-big-enough-to-play-arenas bands.
From First To Last at the Sound Academy (more photos...) photo by Clint Gilders - staff photographer
The opening act of the night was a recent signing to Underground Operations (UO) going by the name of Lights. UO founder London Spicoluk never ceases to amaze me with his diverse, seemingly out of character signings. Lights plays electro pop with little bit of an edge to it and describes herself as "..a small girl who dwells in Toronto and makes music. Most of what you hear comes out of my bedroom". This description paints a somewhat different picture to the confident, relaxed, powerful woman I met at The Sound Academy. Sure she was a little surprised by the size and fervor of the crowd and even quipped that this was the first time a circle pit had eruptd at one of her shows, but she handled it all in stride.
There have been so many good bands coming to Austin the last couple weeks it almost feels like SXSW again... almost. Some of the shows I have covered in the last 10 days include The Mars Volta, Ministry, Dimmu Borgir, Saves The Day, Pepper, and Say Anything, just to name the headliners.
Coming up this week we have Canadian prog-rockers Rush making their first stop in Austin for a long, long time tomorrow. We have been invited to cover the show, but if you want to go you'd better hurry because tickets for their Frank Erwin Center appearance have almost sold out.
Filter will launch first tour in 6 years NOT at Stubb's BarBQ in Austin as planned, but over at Emo's instead on Thursday. Filter frontman Richard Patrick last played Austin heading up the band Army of Anyone with Robert and Dean DeLeo of Stone Temple Pilots back in January of 07. The DeLeo's are off touring with the re-union of Stone Temple Pilots. Considering Scott Wieland's tour track record of late, I am glad I don't hold the insurance policy for that. I'm laying odds that STP won't make it through a third of their tour. Any takers? I would much rather see Filter than STP so look for me over at Emo's.
David Alan Coe brings outlaw country back to Stubb's on Friday, on Sunday the "Get A Life" tour plays Stubb's with Army Of Me, Straylight Run, and Street Drum Corps, and on Monday My Chemical Romance and Billy Talent also play Stubb's. You can also catch Joe Jackson on Monday over at The Paramount.
Wednesday April 30th ends the month with Kanye West, Lupe Fiasco, and N.E.R.D. over at the Frank Erwin Center. What a busy end to April!
I won't pretend these are the "World's Greatest Political Songs," because they're not. They are some of my favorites, that's all, representing a fairly narrow range of musical genres, taken off the "Just Politics" playlist on my iPod. In no particular order:
will. i. am. of the Black Eyed Peas, "Yes, We Can"
Supergroup song mixed to a speech by Barack Obama. It's had over 7 million views on YouTube, and it's what inspired this post. Love him, hate him, vote for him or not, this was one hell of a speech, and one brilliant song and video:
Peter Gabriel, "Biko"
I lied about the "not greatest" part because I truly think this might be one of, if not the, greatest political songs. I saw this tour, which was a benefit for Amnesty International, in Oakland, California, and this performance was unbelievable. What actually sicks most in my mind, though, is that he was introducing a song and said something like, "This is a song about love -- the love between a woman and a man, or a man and a man..." and there was loud booing from the audience. He made them turn up the house lights and read the crowd, and said that anyone who had booed should leave immediately. I cried.
Bruce Springsteen, "The Ghost of Tom Joad"
This live version was performed with Tom Morello.
The Nightwatchman, "Alone Without You"
Speaking of Tom Morello... this is a song he wrote after seeing a pre-release screening of "Sicko." The fucked up health "care" system in this country is on my mind right now, seeing a fully employed friend who has no health coverage at her job and can't get it privately due to serious pre-existing conditions is literally on the brink of living in the streets because she can't get health care... way to go, America. So while there are at least a dozen Nightwatchman songs I could have chosen, I chose this one today:
The Dead Kennedys, "Holiday in Cambodia"
These guys always had something sharp and raw to say. I used to tell them they were too testosterone-y back in the day, but I miss them now.
There's local boys done good, and then there's Three Days Grace. With two members hailing from Norwood, Ontario, and one from just down the road in Peterborough one of hard rock's most successful bands played a benefit concert to help complete the construction of the very facility in which they performing.
As I parked a good ten or fifteen minute hike down the road from the arena I began to get an idea of the scale of the event about to take place in the tiny town. This was a village of 1300 that had sold out a 2000 seat arena! An hour before the doors were to open the line snaked around the parking lot and steadily grew and spread onto the adjacent fair grounds as I strolled around snapping photos.
I didn't relish the idea of joining the end of the line which probably stretched to somewhere near the downtown strip. Luck would have it that my media contact came outside to find me and escorted me into the building just before the doors opened.
Ok, sometimes I miss really really good bands completely, and it makes me wonder if I have been living under a rock. I think the problem is that I don't listen to much FM radio anymore and never activated the satellite radio in my car. Relying instead on my CD collection stored on my iPods and the never ending flow of CD's mailed in for us to review, sometimes big acts sneak up on me. That said - WOW!
The Mars Volta is like wow - man.
No one had given me much of a heads up on The Mars Volta. Though I had heard they were pretty cool, no one had ever given me much more to go on. I really didn't know what to expect. For all I knew they could have been some electronic accordion band from Europe. What they turned out to be is a bad ass rock and roll band that has the look, feel, and sound of a modernized Led Zeppelin moved south of the border.
Combining elements of progressive rock from the seventies, metal, thrash, and flavored with distinctive tex-mex spices they sound like Yes on speed, or a harder faster Incubus. Blazing guitar runs by Omar Rodriguez-Lopez with frantic almost flamenco like jumps and spins by frontman Cedric Bixler-Zavala, its hard to imagine that they keep up the pace for their whole show, but they do. I almost didn't even notice that many of the lyrics were in Spanish.
Fronted by Max Bemis, the Los Angeles based six piece power-pop/emo rockers Say Anything brought the end of their tour through Austin with a stop at La Zona Rosa last week. With a little help from our friends over at Direct Events I was invited up to shoot and cover the show.
With an early door, and some un-cooperative dogs conspiring against me, as well as Austin's notorious traffic I arrived late, just catching the last song by Weatherbox. That was a shame too, because they sounded really interesting. Based out of San Diego they are fronted by Brian Warren, ex of Mister Valentine and are worth checking out next time they come to town. I know I will try to be there.
I don't know what it is about cover songs -- I just love 'em. This is John Lennon's brilliant "Working Class Hero," from his first post-Beatles album, 1970's "John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band." I once heard a version of this song by Yoko Ono, but it must have been a bootleg because I can't find it now, no matter how hard I search.
First, of course, the original.
Then the version that in my view is the best, better than Lennon's, the brilliant live cover by the indomitable Marianne Faithful; she also has a studio version from her iconic album "Broken English," but I like this one better:
Green Day's version, part of a benefit for the people of Dafur, and also pretty fucking great:
Folksy treatment by Tina Dickow from "Instant Karma," a tribute to Lennon recorded to benefit Amnesty International. Strong, but not as much my taste:
I heard that Cyndi Lauper's live version of this is good, but sadly, both the audio and video in this clip are so bad, you couldn't prove it by me. She looks damn good, though:
Bowie did a jazzy/glammy live version in 1989 -- kind of creepy, really:
Marilyn Manson also covered this song. There's a short, bad quality live clip here, and an audio only clip here. And another audio-only clip here, from Ozzie Osbourne.
I had the chance to catch up with a good friend of mine, Dave Witte, drummer for the extremely popular thrash band Municipal Waste. In the early 90s our bands did many shows together and even way back then Dave was very well respected. Dave is having the time of his life playing for Municipal Waste, and I had a killer time at the show talking about all he'd done since I last saw him. Dave rules! Read on...
Club Kingsnake: Of all the bands you have played with which one of them was your favorite? I understand if you name a few bands as you have done so much since Human Remains.... did a clash of personalities or musical tastes have anything to do with you playing in so many bands?
Dave Witte: Human Remains was my first real band so that has a place in my heart that no other band can match. As for playing in so many bands, I guess I had more needs to express myself in multiple ways than others, I wanted to do everything I could so I was always in a few bands at the same time.
Club Kingsnake: Did playing fast get old for you? Do you prefer the older style of say Municipal Waste over the blasting?
Dave Witte: Never. I love the speed aspect of drumming and music in general. Speed has its place in every kind of music.. I just think people lost the creativity of speed and it became more of a contest with the music taking a back seat. I still love blasting and I sure did my share of it, but for me personally...you can only do the same thing for so long.
Club Kingsnake: How much cooler is life since you left that shit hole of a state New Jersey?
Dave Witte: Way cooler. Whenever I go back, I can only take it for a few days and I just wanna leave. I'm so much more relaxed and I enjoy the quality of life as opposed to being high strung and stressed out in the rat race. I can't deny where I am from at the same time, I learned a lot of great things and met some really great people living in NJ and for that I am grateful. Scott Ruth and Jack Monahan had a lot to do with my musical upbringing and if I wasn't in NJ I probably wouldn't have met them. I also wouldn't have met Martin O'Connor, Mot, Donut, Bekov, Wickmen and Nokturnel. :)
Club Kingsnake: Do you have any endorsements, how'd that come about?
Dave Witte: Yes, I proudly play Trick drums, Paiste cymbals and Vic Firth drumsticks. I submitted myself for all these companies time after time and never gave up. It was hard work, but I never gave up. There were some people that really helped me with Paiste 'caue they were super hard to get through too. They get thousands of submissions yearly ya know?. Chris Hornbrooke (Poison The Well), Aaron Harris (Isis), Mike Ambrose (Set Your Goals) and Matt Byrne (Hatebreed) really went to bat for me and I'll never forget that.
Club Kingsnake: I noticed Municipal Waste has an outrageous amount of views/plays on your myspace page. When I spoke to the guys about it they all seemed shocked. Who keeps up on the industry stuff and who handles booking the tours? You guys play everywhere and never seems to stop....is this all planned out far in advance or are you able to pick up and leave at a moment's notice?
Dave Witte: I never really pay attention to the Waste myspace page, or read the interviews or press about us. I know there is a good and bad and fortunately more good than bad. We are lucky to be able to work so hard to get a great response. The music we write is what carries us after all, but the people who come see us show after show is what keeps us going. We are a pretty democratic band and all handle duties within the band. We all work together to plan our schedule around our lives for the year, it's planned pretty far in advance.
We have plans into December '08 at the moment.
Club Kingsnake: Name a few drummers who you think are worthy of praise in the extreme metal scene.
Dave Witte: One of the greatest and most underrated is Brandon Thomas of Ripping Corpse/Dim-Mak. He had the biggest effect on m when I was younger. Roddy, Laureno and Longstreth are in leagues of their own. I'd say Nick Barker is the Neil Peart of extreme metal drumming. Everything beat and fill is so tasteful and thought out, I love listening to him. The drumming on Dimmu Borgir's Death Cult Armageddon is perfect.
Club Kingsnake: Is playing drums for you a full time thing or do you also have a day job?
Dave Witte: I still work 'cause I like to be constantly busy. I work in a kitchen for a catering company. I love it and the people who work there. They are the people who let me come and go over the years as well, so I'll work when they need me.
Club Kingsnake: Do you have any desire to play in the technical metal category any more? Is it more rewarding to play music people have an easier time following?
Dave Witte: Yeah, that part of me is still there. After a while of playing the same songs all year long I need another something ya know? I don't miss the pressure of technical music. When I was younger and I would make mistakes, I would get really down on myself. I've learned to let that go and have a good time, it's a better mental state.
Club Kingsnake: You guys are so god damned lucky to have a spot on the At the Gates tour. Tell me a little about the friendship you have with them and how long have you known those guys?
Dave Witte: We are very lucky and we know it; it's a dream tour for lots of people. I've been a fan since Gardens of Grief, so it means a great deal for me. Anders and I were pen pals in the early 90s death metal underground before email existed and we traded demos. The Waste also toured with The Haunted last year as well. Needless to say we all very excited when they invited us on the tour.
Club Kingsnake: Hollywood seems to have run out of ideas with tons of remakes hitting the cinema. Do you see the same redundancy is metal?
Dave Witte: Yeah, of course, but I'm a firm believer that the clones are needed to spawn the next thing. Everyone jumps on some band wagon one time or another and in time, "that one band" will realize and change. Take At the Gates, for example; they came out of Sweden in the death metal heyday, evolved into greatness and changed the whole US hardcore scene. I'm still waiting for something to come out of there though, haha Human Remains was a total Ripping Corpse worship clone before we figured it out, but we flew over people's heads, we went way out there.
When I arrived at the Kool Haus I was surprised by how thin the crowd seemed. Yeah, it was early but with this being Sum 41 I expected more early birds. Only a few months before the Sums had been scheduled to play the cavernous Air Canada Centre. This was before Deryck suffered a herniated disc and they had to cancel their co-headlining tour with Finger Eleven. So I expected the packed like sardines turn out so often seen at the Kool Haus.
Die Mannequin at the Kool Haus (more...) photo by Clint Gilders - staff photographer
I arrived shortly before Die Mannequin were to take the stage. This a band I have wanted to see live for ages, but somehow seemed to always miss. My first taste of lead singer Care Failure was on the soundtrack of "Trailer Park Boys: The Movie" where she performed with Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson of Rush among others. Who was this beautiful brunette with the frighteningly powerful voice? Care F@$kin' Failure! Die Mannequin are a trio (Care on Guitar and Vocals, Anthony Bleed on Bass, and Ghostwolf on Drums) that play heavy, dirty, sexy rock. Care obviously uses her good looks to her advantage but not to the point where she becomes a mockery. Die Mannequin are pure Rock and Roll: rolling on the stage, jumping into audience, throwing mics, trashing drum kits, mic cables wrapped around everything. D-D-D Do it or die!!!
Wednesday. The dogs got me up at 7:00am. The music festival officially starts at 9:00am. My plan is to get downtown by noon and get a fast start on the day parties. In fact I don't get there til about 2:00pm, and even that is slowed by parking issues. Finally finding a spot by The Mohawk I gear up and spend the afternoon sliding back and forth on Red River, dropping in at The Mohawk, then Emo's Annex, then Emo's Lounge, then back to the annex, then the Mohawk, then back to the lounge finally ending up at Paul Collins and The Beat's set at Beerland.
I saw a lot of interesting bands, the crowds were light, the lines nonexistent. The biggest problem was sorting out who I was seeing as the bands sometimes didn't match the order on the list. I still have 5 bands from Wednesday's day parties to identify but some of my favorites included The Forms out of New York and Zykos from here in Austin.
I had to cut my day partying short at 5:00pm. I had set a goal of trying to see a few of the headliners and I was going to have to hoof it to catch my first, Van Morrison, scheduled for an early 7:00pm set at La Zona Rosa, 10 or 12 blocks away. I knew he would be prompt as the venue was to going to "flip" genres after his set. By the time I got to the gate the badge line was already 20 deep, the wristband line even larger and by the time they let us in the lines were of epic proportions, stretching far around the building in both directions. I doubt all the badge holders made it in, much less any of the wristband holders.